And Your Legal Rights To Compensation If You Succeed
The moment when you board your plane to set off on an overseas holiday is for most, one of great excitement. But do you ever take a moment to plan what you would do if something went wrong? And if you are injured in a plane crash, can you claim compensation from the airline?
Plane crashes are mercifully rare. In 2015 the International Air Transport Association reported one accident for every 3.1m flights. But taking in to account those odds, plane crashes can happen, killing many as a result but potentially leaving survivors. Only very recently in November 2016, a plane carrying 77 people, including a top Brazilian football team, crashed on its approach to the city of Medellin in Colombia, killing 71; six people however miraculously survived.
Is surviving a plane crash down to luck?
The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) estimate that a surprisingly high 90% of plane crashes are survivable.
Accidents that happen when the plane is in cruise are less survivable as they usually involve a catastrophic incident that happens quickly, leaving the passengers and the crew with no time to prepare. Survival in these events often results from sheer good fortune, for example, if thrown clear to safety on impact.
The majority of accidents however happen on take-off or landing and chances are you will have time to prepare yourself. Here is what you need to know to increase your chances of walking away.
Wear the right clothes
As many as 70% of people survive impact. Most deaths occur in the fire that often follows an air accident. Try to dress in cotton or wool clothes as these materials are less flammable. Wear sensible, preferably flat shoes that allow you to move quickly.
Sit in the rear of the plane
Research shows that passengers at the back of the plane have a 40% greater chance of survival than those at the front. Count the number of seats to your nearest exit in case you need to jump over them to get out.
Know and adopt the brace position
Ludicrous conspiracy theories frequently circulate the internet stating that airlines advise people to adopt the brace position as it increases the chance of breaking the backs and necks of passengers and thereby reduce insurance costs.
Back in reality…the brace position protects your head from flying objects and lowers the risk of your legs breaking on impact, which makes it much less likely you would be able to escape. After the M1 Kegworth crash in 1989 (when 79 of the 126 people on board survived), many victims and survivors were found to have legs broken below the knee, the result of their legs flying into, or being forced against the seat structure in front of them. This is why you are asked to place hand luggage under the seat in front of you; they can act as a cushion on impact.
Spend a few seconds reminding yourself how to undo your seatbelt
Research has shown time and time again that many people instinctively try to press their seatbelt open after a plane crash (like you do in a car) rather than flip it open. Failing to undo your seatbelt means panic can set in, which is likely to be immobilising.
The potential g-force your body will be subjected to increases with every centimetre of slack on your seatbelt so make sure it is tight.
Upon impact you will have less than two minutes to escape before you are overcome with smoke (most crashes involve fire). The actions you take in these two minutes will determine whether you live or die. Many people become frozen in panic and go into a trance-like state. This can include the crew. If they start issuing instructions, great, but get yourself up and out. Many die waiting for instructions from the crew that never come.
Never, ever drop to the ground to avoid the smoke, you will be trampled by others or crushed by falling objects. Get your head down but stay on two feet. If possible wet a handkerchief, or other piece of material – the seat back headrest, for example – to cover your nose and mouth. If you cannot find water, use urine.
Once you are out, get as far away from the aircraft as possible and wait for help to arrive.
If you suffer an injury due to a plane crash or some other form of accident on board an aircraft, you can claim compensation.
Most major airlines are signatories to the Montreal Convention, a unilateral treaty which provides rights and compensation procedures to people who are injured in air accidents. Under Article 17 of the Convention, airliners are strictly liable for claims up to £100,000 and passengers can claim for damages in the country in which they primarily reside.
Claims must be made within two years of the accident.
If an accident occurred whilst you were taking part in a package holiday, you may have an additional right to claim against the tour operator under the Package Travel [Etc] Regulations 1992.
If you are injured on a domestic flight within the UK, the Montreal Convention will not apply, but you may be able to sue the carrier for negligence in the UK courts.
The idea of being in a plane crash is terrifying, but it is important to remember that most people survive and safety features and procedures are being improved all the time. And if you are injured in the air, you can claim compensation for the damage you have suffered.
At Russell Worth Solicitors we specialise in personal injury claims. If you have been injured in an air accident and would like a free claim assessment so that you can understand your rights, please call us now on 0800 028 2060 or complete our online Free QuickClaim Enquiry.
Free Claim Assessment